HiRUM Software Solutions

Christmas Party Responsibilities

Posted by HiRUM Software Solutions -22/11/2013

In the lead up to the silly season, it is opportune to give some thought to the Christmas Party responsibilities of both employers and employees alike. As our property management software clients, you are probably, like us, putting the final touches on your office Christmas celebrations.

CCIQ (Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland) recently held a very informative webinar on this topic. It was conducted by Susan Stubbings, who covered some common mistakes that are made in Christmas party situations, and also discussed the responsibilities of employers and employees.  (read more from the CCIQ here)

Firstly, it should be stated that Christmas parties are an important event in the office environment and are excellent, on the whole, for office morale. We are certainly not playing the role of the Christmas Grinch, as long as care is taken. Some things to remember to ensure you don’t fall into the common pitfalls;

1)      Remember you are still at work- A Christmas Party, even off site and out of hours, is considered an extension of the workplace. Employees can have their employment terminated if they are guilty of serious misconduct at a Christmas party, and likewise, employers are still responsible for ensuring a safe environment for their employees.

2)      Christmas Spirit- Don’t over indulge if alcohol is available at your celebration, don’t over indulge. Employers must ensure that alcohol is served responsibly, that non- alcoholic alternatives are freely available and that there are mechanisms in place to control the flow of alcohol.

3)      Don’t drunkenly harass your colleagues- Sexual harassment legislation definitely applies, and employees and employers can be subject to claims. If they are present at the event, actions of partners against employees will also fall under this legislation.

4)      No inappropriate use of social media- Comments made in private on a personal computer or device, and even when out of hours, about a colleague or employer are grounds for disciplinary action. So, at the end of the day, who is responsible for what? Employees:

  • Have a legal responsibility to avoid becoming so intoxicated that they become a danger to themselves or others.
  • Have a duty of care to act in a safe manner at work related events
  • Are personally liable for acts of harassment.  Some acts of harassment may amount to a criminal offence.

Employers are responsible for the actions of their employees. This statement is quite far reaching. The best alternative for employers is to do their best to minimise risk. Each workplace should have comprehensive policies relating to discrimination, harassment, social media and discipline already in place, and should ensure that staff are aware of this. They should also ensure that workplace culture and policy match. Staff should be reminded of the expected behavior at the party. Employers and their representatives should not hesitate to let staff members know if they witness any inappropriate behavior, or behavior that may head in that direction.  They should also be proactive in suggesting that staff stop drinking if they are showing signs of intoxication, including drawing the attention of the bar staff to this.

Employers need to ensure that non-alcoholic options are at least as available as alcoholic options, and should suggest to staff that alternative transport should be arranged if they are intending to drink alcohol. They should take care that juniors are NEVER served alcohol. They should monitor bar tabs and dance floor antics, set reasonable start and finish times, and ensure staff have safe transport options home. In the event of an issue arising, and although it won’t absolve the employers from responsibility, all employers should be able to show that they have policies in place to ensure staff are made aware of these guidelines and the policies the employer has in place.

Other articles of interest: 

Your Christmas Survival Guide

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